October is national domestic violence awareness month. The following interview was conducted with the advocates at the Spanish American Center to provide the community with awareness of the problem of domestic violence and what the Center is doing to address it.
SAC provides for the safety of families caught up in the web of domestic violence through services such as the provision of referrals for emergency housing and /or shelter programs, crisis intervention, counseling and support, advocacy, and legal assistance contacts. We also promote public awareness through collaboration and education with cultural sensitivity. We provide unique immigrant family outreach and follow up tracking as needed. What follows is a discussion obtained between the editor of this newsletter and the domestic violence advocates at the Spanish American center.
How many dedicated DV staff are employed at the Spanish American center? How are their roles similar, different?
We have 3 Domestic Violence Counselors/Advocates and a Domestic Violence Outreach and Community Engagement Coordinator
The counselors/advocates work directly with victims, providing comprehensive services and counseling. On the other hand, our Domestic Violence Outreach and Community Engagement Coordinator role is to educate the community, participate in activities and events, connect with other agencies, give information about our program, etc.
What languages are spoken in the DV Unit?
English and Spanish
What are your Hours/ Days Available? Monday thru Friday 8:30 to 4:30
How are you trained?
• Domestic Violence Awareness Training
• Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocacy Training
• Intimate Partner Abuse Education Program, Certification Training
• The Interrelationship Between Sexual/Domestic Violence and Substance Use Disorder
• Understanding, Assessing, Managing, and Preventing Suicidal Behavior
• Continuing Education
Are there any special qualifications for staff members in the domestic violence unit (bilingual or bi cultural staff)?
• 25+ Domestic Violence Training
• Human Service
How many clients do you see in an average week? 15-20
What measures do you take to keep clients and staff safe?
• We collect information about perpetrators, including physical details and behavioral risks
• We encourage clients to keep participation in our program as confidential as they can
• Protocol to call 911 in any situation that escalates and starts getting out of hand
Do you work with local courts, police, hospitals and government agencies?
Yes, we received referrals from and refer victims to these agencies. We also received referrals from friends, family members, and faith communities.
What are your three most common issues you see?
The most common issues we see are need of shelter, stabilized housing and immigration status needs.
What strengths are unique to your program at SAC?
A unique strength that we have is our team effort; when we put our ideas together to get things done. We are very passionate about what we do. Our connection with other agencies to assist clients is a strength that makes us unique. And, also, another big strength is our counseling services. This has helped victims to break the cycle of domestic violence.
How do your clients contact you?
By phone, email, or direct referrals.
Is there emergency back up?
In times of emergencies our team works together to provide the best assistance possible to our victims in connection with community resources.
Are clients charged for your services? Do you take health insurance?
Our services are free or charge and we do not take health insurance.
What is the source of your funding for the domestic violence intervention program?
Department of Public Health, Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance fund,
Do you accept donations?
Yes, donations are always welcome.
Does your department have a "wish list" and if so, what do you need?
Basic needs items for victims and their children.
Do you have recommendations for ongoing bilingual/cultural counseling support for clients?
We refer them two community mental health programs where appropriate
Where are the Spanish-speaking therapists?
Community Health Connections, Dr. Bradley in Fitchburg
How has Covid-19 impacted you program and your ability to work with clients?
No meeting face to face, difficulties referring to agencies that are working remotely. Counseling on the phone is very difficult because the connection and body language are affected. When victims come to the center for their appointments, they have the opportunity to take a break for themselves and get away from their situations at home. Clients that are with the abusive partners do not have the freedom to speak with us over the phone.
What do you wish the community understood about the Domestic Violence problem?
Domestic Violence has no room in our society. SAC is here to help! Please, do not stay quiet!
How long does a case stay open (on average)?
As long as it takes, it depends on the client.
Do you provide follow up after a case is closed and how often?
We do follow up once or twice but we also have has the experience of clients calling to tell us information on their success progress, there new beginnings, and updates.
The editor wishes to thank the staff up the Domestic Violence intervention unit at the Spanish American Center for participating in this interview for the November issue. If anyone in the community needs assistance, please contact the Center at 978 534 3145. You can also reach the domestic violence program at email@example.com, or through our website messaging system. All inquiries are maintained with strict confidentiality.